Lewiston, ME

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Lewiston is a city of about 36,000 residents, located in southern Maine between Portland and Augusta along Interstate 95, in Androscoggin County. Community members have complained about burgeoning prostitution activity for decades, with cases of commercial sex and sex trafficking dating back to at least 1980. Among the problems associated with the local commercial sex market was the murder of a prostituted woman in 2011. A missing Lewiston woman who had advertised escort services on Backpage.com was killed on July 1, 2011 by the brother of her “madam” or pimp, according to a police affidavit. Sex trafficking has also been documented in the area, and several incidents of minor females being picked up during prostitution “sweeps” have also been reported. During 2018, police have collaborated with the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office and local social service advocates to address prostitution, especially in inner-city areas. In March 2018, police arrested three women accused of engaging in prostitution in downtown Lewiston. In October 2018, a man was arrested and charged with aggravated sex trafficking.

In an effort to address problems associated with prostitution and the wide range of serious crimes that always accompany the sex trade, the Lewiston Police Department has attempted to combat demand, such as by conducting periodic street-level reverse stings since at least 1983. LPD officers have also conducted sting operations by placing decoy advertisements suggesting prostitution in local newspapers, and arranging to meet the individuals who responded to the listings. Such operations typically employ the use of an undercover female officer, who poses as a prostituting woman. When sex buyers attempt to solicit sex from her, they are quickly arrested.  Police release arrestees’ names and other identifying information to the local media. In August, 1997, 13 male sex buyer were arrested when they responded to an advertisement for paid sex that police placed in the Lewiston Sunday Journal.

In September, 2018 more than 10 men were arrested in a series of street-level reverse stings targeting downtown Lewiston. The operations placed an undercover officer on streets in areas identified as problem spots for prostitution. Police arrested the  suspects, and posted the men’s photos, names, ages, and addresses in news releases. The men were taken to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, where they were booked. In 2019, another reverse sting led to five arrests of male sex buyers, whose names were also included in news reports. The department says the operation was part of an ongoing effort to target sex related offenses and sex trafficking. The men were all charged with misdemeanor “engaging a prostitute.”

In February, 2020, Lewiston police announced they had charged eight people with “engaging a prostitute” during a covert sting operation targeting those soliciting sex for money using online escort sites. Lewiston police included the identities of the arrested sex buyers, and said that the arrests were part of a continued effort to reduce the number of female victims being forced or coerced into sex acts (i.e., sex trafficking).

Key Partners

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Maine
Type City
Population 35865
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